Under President Romney, Number of Uninsured Would Balloon

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The outcome of the presidential election will dramatically impact the ability of children and low-income families to access affordable health care over the next several years, according to two recent, separately released analyses of both major-party candidates’ health care plans. 

If President Barack Obama wins a second term in November and if health care reforms under his signature Affordable Care Act – also known as “ObamaCare” – continue to be implemented, about 6 million children in the United States will lack health insurance by 2022, according to an economic analysis released today by the New York-based foundation The Commonwealth Fund, which focuses on health policy.

By contrast, three times as many children – nearly 18 million – will remain uninsured by the end of the next decade if Republican candidate Mitt Romney wins the White House, dismantles the Affordable Care Act, turns Medicaid into block grants and implements other health care measures outlined by his campaign, according to the Commonwealth Fund report, Health Care in the 2012 Presidential Election: How the Obama and Romney Plans Stack Up.

“Gov. Romney has not identified universal health care coverage as a goal,” pointed out Sara Collins, an economist and vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund, during a media briefing yesterday.

By contrast, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act aims for nearly everyone in the United States to be covered by some form of health insurance. It tightens regulations for private insurance companies while relying on them to provide coverage for most Americans, and provides funding for states to increase their enrollment of low-income families into Medicaid programs. 

Romney’s campaign website makes clear his differences with Obama’s approach. “On his first day in office, Mitt Romney will issue an executive order that paves the way for the federal government to issue Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. He will then work with Congress to repeal the full legislation as quickly as possible,” the website says. 

In its place, Romney says he will allow the free market to take care of improvements in the health care system, turn over the control of local insurance markets to the states, and reduce federal funding for Medicaid by turning it into state block grants.

But a report released last week by the nonprofit organization Families USA, which draws upon analyses by public policy experts at MIT, Harvard and Brandeis University, indicates that such a hands-off federal approach would leave more children, seniors and low-income families uncovered by health insurance.

Called ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare vs. RomneyCandidateCare: A National and State-by-State Analysis, the report compares not just the health plans offered by the two candidates – “ObamaCare” and “RomneyCandidateCare” – but also the universal health care plan signed into Massachusetts law by Romney in 2006 while he was governor (“RomneyCare”), from which he has since backed away.

Its conclusions are dismal. By 2016, under the health care proposal offered by Romney, nearly 42 million more people would be uninsured than under the Affordable Care Act, the Families USA report found.

“As our data show, RomneyCandidateCare, compared to ObamaCare, would substantially increase the number of uninsured people across the nation; would leave millions of middle-class, working families with considerably higher out-of-pocket health care costs; and would take away significant preventive and prescription drug services for seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare,” the report by Families USA said.

The Commonwealth Fund reported similar findings. Under a second Obama term, the total number of Americans who lack health insurance would drop to 27 million by 2022, compared to 48 million now, it found.

Under President Romney, the number of uninsured Americans would rise to 72 million people over the next decade – meaning an additional 45 million people would lack health insurance under Romney than under the Affordable Care Act.

Southern states, especially Texas, would be particularly hard-hit under Romney, the report projected.

Although the reports credit several different policy analysts and were released separately, both also acknowledge drawing upon an economic model developed by the same MIT economics professor, Jonathan Gruber. Gruber also serves as the director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Program on Children.